Right-wing media jumped to defend businesses' right to game the system and fire employees merely to avoid the obligation of providing them with health insurance.
On February 10 the IRS announced that it would delay the health insurance employer mandate for medium-sized businesses employing between 50 and 99 people until 2016. Smaller businesses -- those with 49 employees or fewer -- are not required to provide all workers with health insurance. To prevent employers from simply firing workers in order to avoid the obligation to provide health coverage in the next couple years, the IRS included a safeguard: If these businesses fire workers, they must show they did so for "bona fide business reasons" in order to be eligible for the delayed mandate.
In other words, as Washington Post's Wonkblog explained, "'It's simply so they don't game the system,' one senior administration official told reporters on a phone call this afternoon. 'They have to certify they're not doing that and not dropping their coverage.'"
Preventing employers from firing workers merely in order to game the system may seem like common sense, but not to conservative media. Outlets like Fox News immediately lambasted the safeguard as "Orwellian," while The Wall Street Journal blamed the health care law for forcing businesses to fire employees:
Either Obamacare is ushering in a worker's paradise, in which case by the White House's own logic exempting businesses from its ministrations is harming employees. Or else the mandate really is leading business to cut back on hiring, hours and shifting workers to part-time as the evidence in the real economy suggests.
On the February 10 edition of Fox's The Kelly File, Fox News' Megyn Kelly scoffed at the idea that employers shouldn't be permitted to fire workers merely to avoid giving them health insurance:
KELLY: That is the government telling you, employers, 'you will not fire a single person, you will not lay off a single person if you want to take advantage of our gift, and you have to certify under penalty of perjury to the IRS that you didn't do that, that no layoff was due to Obamacare.'
Wow, so now, if a small business employer wants to lay off a person under pain of perjury he has to convince people at the IRS that he's not doing it because of Obamacare.
Fox News is attacking the Obama administration's new rules regarding asylum for refugees by portraying the move as an "open door policy" and an invitation for terrorism. In reality, refugees still have to pass "lengthy" background checks, and the government states it will only accept "individuals whom the United States does not consider threats."
On February 5, the Obama administration announced new immigration rules concerning political or war zone refugees. The changes were prompted by restrictive rules that have prevented nearly all asylum-seeking Syrians from entering the United States. Reuters reported that the changes will grant exemptions "on a case by case basis," for those seeking political asylum that do not pose a national security or public safety risk. The New York Times explained that "the exemptions apply if the refugees provided only minor material support, such as meals or medical aid, to armed groups that have not been officially designated as terrorist organizations, or if they gave such support under pressure."
Echoing Republican lawmakers, Fox has misleadingly portrayed these exemptions as an "open door policy" for refugees and misrepresented the definition of refugees with "limited terror connections" to spread unwarranted fears of increased terror attacks due to these new policies.
On February 7, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy interviewed Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies at the nativist and anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies. Vaughn hyped fears that these exemptions could be given "to all applicants for any kind of visa or green card who have been identified as possibly supporting terrorism," while Doocy suggested that these exemptions could apply to someone who "was simply Bin Laden's au pair."
On February 8, Fox & Friends Saturday hosted Michael Cutler, who has an extensive history of association with anti-immigrant and nativist groups. Cutler is also a regular contributor to the white nationalist Social Contract Journal. During his Fox appearance, Cutler heavily criticized the exemptions and argued that "we must never allow compassion to compromise national security," while Fox News co-host Tucker Carlson suggested that these exemptions were made by the Obama administration to gain new voters.
But these exemptions are not an "open door policy" for potential terrorists. As Reuters reported, the "advocacy group Human Rights First said, for example, that the existing law had been invoked to bar a refugee who had been robbed of $4 and his lunch by armed rebels, and a florist who had sold bouquets to a group the United States had designated as a terrorist organization." Such standards have already barred thousands of people from refugee status.
The new rules still require refugees to pass eligibility requirement. The New York Times reported that "refugees have to pass through the lengthy existing series of criminal and national security background checks, lawyers said, and the exemptions do not come into play until the refugees have already passed all the other eligibility hurdles."
A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson told the Times that "these exemptions are for individuals whom the United States does not consider threats ... Nothing in these exemptions changes the rigorous, multilayered security screening we do."
Fox News' idea for a debate on whether Disney should create a plus-size princess centered around the notion that such a princess might encourage obesity.
On February 6, Fox News' Fox & Friends discussed a Change.org petition for Disney to create a plus-size Disney princess. High school student Jewel Moore, who started the petition, envisions that such a princess would be a role model for "women who struggle with confidence and need a positivie [sic] plus-size character in the media."
Fox took the story and used it to entertain the notion that a plus-size Disney princess might encourage obesity and diabetes.
Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked, "Move over Cinderella. Disney under pressure to create a plus-size princess. Should they? We're going to debate that," before inviting on Emme, a plus-size supermodel, and Meme Roth, a self-described obesity expert. Roth declared that such a Disney princess would "glorify obesity." She speculated as to whether the teen petitioning Disney is obese and argued that "If you're going to do a storyline with obesity, then you need to do Princess Diabetes, Princess Cancer, Princess Fertility Problems." To Roth, the petition was "like mob mentality." When Hasselbeck asked, "Is plus-size fat?" Roth responded, "It's unhealthy. If you like cancer and diabetes, if you want fertility problems, then plus-size is beautiful."
Fox treated Roth's invective as credible. As she ranted against Emme, a proponent of the petition, an on-screen graphic wondered, "Who's right?"
Presenting Roth as an expert on body-image issues and entertaining her vitriolic remarks is merely a continuation of Fox & Friends' complicity with body-shaming.
The program has previously given a fitness model and mother who shamed other mothers about their bodies a platform to unapologetically defend her position.
It is unclear why Fox presented Roth as qualified to speak on the plus-size Disney princess issue -- she does not appear to have degrees in the nutrition or medical field, but instead is known for body-shaming through her National Action Against Obesity website and personal blog which carries the tag-line "MeMe Roth: Reporting From FATOPOLIS." She has compared obese people to sex criminals and advocated for nutrition plans that sound a lot like anorexia.
It is important to note that obesity is not the equivalent of plus-size. PLUS Model magazine reports that plus-size models are on average between the sizes of 6-14.
Fox News deflected from its role manufacturing scandals about the Benghazi attack by complaining that President Obama pointed to the network as a source of misinformation during a Super Bowl interview with Bill O'Reilly.
On February 2, Fox New host Bill O'Reilly conducted a live interview with President Barack Obama which aired before Super bowl XLVIII. During the interview, Obama responded to O'Reilly's claim that "your detractors believe that you did not tell the world it was a terror attack because your campaign didn't want that out" by pointing out that "they believe it because folks like you are telling them that," later noting "these kinds of things keep on surfacing, in part because you and your TV station will promote them."
During the February 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Steve Doocy, and Brian Kilmeade attacked Obama for pointing to Fox's role in pushing the manufactured scandal, complaining that the president "actually went on to blame Fox News for all the mistakes":
HASSELBECK: When Bill O'reilly, yesterday, sat down with the president, he asked him some tough questions and he said 'look let's go over some game tape here, you know, there have been some mistakes like Benghazi, the IRS scandals that's been bugging you.
HASSELBECK: Let's maybe review the tape and see what's wrong. Now most coaches would say this happened or the defense failed. No. He actually went on to blame Fox News for all the mistakes.
Later, Kilmeade likened this to other administrations claiming, "Bill Clinton didn't blame the New York Times for his scandal. George Bush didn't blame every media outlet for running down the war or for Katrina. Why attack the people who are asking you questions?"
But Obama was right, Fox led the charge in misinforming about every aspect of the Benghazi attack, including the false claim that Obama refused to call the attack an act of terror. In a May 13, 2012, press conference, Obama responded to an AP reporter's question by saying "The day after it happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism." In the days following the attack, Obama repeatedly called it an "act of terror."
Fox has repeatedly dodged the facts on Benghazi, hyped supposed "lingering questions" while ignoring the transcripts that answer them, and used its own Benghazi trutherism as a way to avoid discussing issues that could damage Republicans.
Hillary Clinton's recent statement that her "biggest regret is what happened in Benghazi" led to a media feeding frenzy who treated her statement as a groundbreaking revelation, while ignoring the fact that immediately following the attacks, Clinton accepted responsibility multiple times including during her testimony with the Senate and House committee.
Fox News spread fears that new military instructions that grant commanders the discretion to accommodate service members' religious practices and physical appearance will threaten the core military values and cohesion of the troops despite the fact that the Pentagon requires these accommodations be made on an individual basis in consideration to the health and safety needs of each unit.
On January 22, the Department of Defense released new instructions on accommodations for religious expression -- instructions which they believe will reduce discrimination "toward those whose religious expressions are less familiar to the command." The Washington Post reports the new instructions will ensure "rights of religious-minority service members to display their beliefs outwardly -- such as wearing a turban, scarf or beard -- as long as the practices do not interfere with military discipline, order or readiness."
On the January 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade turned to Fox's go-to anti-Muslim activist, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser who attacked the rule change as a threat to military readiness. Jasser argued that the rule change might be manipulated by "pseudo-civil rights groups that are really trying to weaken our unit cohesion, weaken mission readiness, and ultimately tee up the football for litigation Jihad or people like -- monsters like -- Nidal Hasan who want to wear a beard." Kilmeade agreed, adding "if your religion conflicts with what the rules are in the military, do something else."
Later in the show, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck invoked the story of former army officer, Nidal Hasan, convicted of killing 13 people on a military base in Fort Hood, Texas to stoke fears that the new policy might hurt safety and unit cohesion:
HASSELBECK: You can't help but think, I mean, people are harkening back to Nidal Hasan asking to maintain and grow a beard while a trial was going on. I think it definitely brings up concerns, both for safety, unified front, and just cohesion.
But the new instructions came after a long struggle on the part of religious minority groups like Sikh, Jewish, and Muslim Americans who have previously been barred from serving in the military due to the strict dress and personal appearance standards. The new instructions will allow military departments to accommodate individual religious expression, but each individual will still have to be granted permission from his or her unit to assure that physical appearances "do not interfere with good order and discipline."
The Washington Post further clarified that these new accommodations will not be allowed to affect safety or military readiness:
According to the Pentagon, requests for such religious accommodation will still be decided on an individual basis but will generally be denied only if the item impairs the safe use of military equipment; poses a health or safety hazard; interferes with wearing a uniform, a helmet or other military gear; or "impairs the accomplishment of the military mission."
In 2013, Fox News worked to stoke outrage over the supposed decline of traditional American values, identifying the purported "wussification" of America in everything from the "disturbing trend" of yoga in schools to the availability of human resources in the workplace. Here is Media Matters' top ten countdown of Fox News' 'wussification' fears:
Fox News continued their campaign to characterize Planned Parenthood as an organization synonymous with abortion by defending an Oregon high school teacher who objected to a Planned Parenthood teen outreach program that teaches life skills but does not include abortion education.
On December 18, Fox News' Fox & Friends stoked outrage over an Oregon school's decision to fire teacher Bill Diss, who maintains that he was terminated for denying classroom access to Planned Parenthood employees who were there to conduct the organization's Teen Outreach Program (TOP). Fox suggested that the program would teach teenagers about abortion, claiming Diss' pro-life stance was what led to his termination, claiming "he just wants to protect the kids" and asking "if they put the other side in there. Did they have an adoption agency come in and talk to them?"
From the November 26 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News misleadingly implied the Obama administration was at fault for not allowing people to keep their health insurance policies indefinitely, while hiding the fact that health insurance companies routinely alter consumer's plans every year.
Fox News misleadingly compared the Affordable Care Act's HealthCare.gov to private website HealthSherpa.com, despite the fact that the programmers previously explained to Fox this was not an "apples to apples comparison."
In response to the troubled rollout of the federal HealthCare.gov, three private programmers recently created HeatlhSherpa.com, a site which shows some health insurance plans available through the new health care law's exchanges, based on a person's zip code, income, and family size. The site does not allow users to purchase insurance, does not verify citizenship, and can only estimate tax breaks and subsidies that users might be eligible for, all functions of the HealthCare.gov website that make purchasing an insurance policy possible.
On the November 18 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News host Elisabeth Hasselbeck ignored many of these differences in the websites' functionality to claim HealthSherpa.com was a "working healthcare website" and implied it was a preferable alternative to the "failed HealthCare.gov website." Hasselbeck interviewed Michael Wasser, one of the founders of HealthSherpa.com, who explained some of the functional differences between his site and the federal health care website:
WASSER: I think the HealthCare.gov was focused on providing an interface for everybody, multiple languages, actually signing up for the health insurance plans directly on the website. There is a much larger feature set that theirs looked at. We were really focused on reviewing plan data and giving simple instructions on how to sign up for those plans directly through the insurer.
But this is not the first time one of HealthSherpa.com's programmers have explained this faulty comparison to Fox. On the November 13 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney also described HealthSherpa.com as "a working alternative website" to HealthCare.gov, but was quickly corrected by one of the website's programmers, George Kalogeropoulos:
KALOGEROPOULOS: It's not really a fair apples to apples comparison to compare HealthSherpa.com to HealthCare.gov, and that's because the government website talks to the IRS for your tax status, talks to Homeland Security for immigration status, and it talks to the states. All we do is show you prices. So we say where are you, and then show you what's available and what it costs. So it's a much more limited goal.
[T]he team at HealthCare.gov is extraordinarily competent technically, I'm sure they could have done what we did, what we did technically speaking is not that complicated.
In a November 11 article, CNN's Doug Gross further explained why "it's not fair to compare the creation of Health Sherpa to the rollout of the more complicated government ACA site":
Of course, it's not fair to compare the creation of Health Sherpa to the rollout of the more complicated government ACA site, which everyone from President Obama on down has acknowledged as a horribly botched affair.
For one, you can't actually use Heath Sherpa to sign up for coverage. The site states that it's for research purposes only, and that users must verify the premiums and subsidies they find there with state health care exchanges, insurance companies or on HealthCare.gov itself.
From the February 21st edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News is again using its own bogus narrative to stoke fears of a civil war in the U.S. between "makers" and "takers," after repeatedly pushing the argument that people who receive government benefits are "takers" and pitting them against "makers."
In a January 3 op-ed, Fox News columnist Arthur Herman wrote that riots in Argentina foreshadowed "a coming civil war between makers and takers" in the U.S. Herman revived former presidential candidate Mitt Romney's infamous 47 percent remarks to argue that that the government is creating a dependency nation of people "unable to fend for themselves -- and increasingly resentful of those who can." He added:
When the economy tanks and the government checks have to shrink, their only alternative is to take to the streets. That's what happening in Argentina, and in Greece; and that's where the growth of government is taking us here, as this current budget deal increases handouts -- and more and more Americans are finding that an unemployment or Social Security disability check is their only life line.
But the concept of society being divided into "makers" and "takers" is a manufactured distinction, one that Fox has pushed aggressively.
Fox News figures attacked President Obama's defense of Ambassador Susan Rice during a press conference, claiming his statement that critics of Rice "should go after me" was "absurd and chauvinistic." Fox has a history of attacking Obama and Rice, most recently by invoking Libya smears in order to derail Rice's potential nomination as secretary of state.
Fox News questioned the legitimacy of the September jobs report while simultaneously airing numbers from the report that could be perceived as bad news for President Obama and labeling them "Fox Facts."
Following the release of the report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Fox and other media outlets have attacked the report as being manipulated to help the Obama administration politically. Experts say that this is an unfounded conspiracy theory.
Before an interview with Fox host Chris Wallace, America's Newsroom co-host Martha MacCallum questioned the September jobs report, which showed a drop in the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent. MacCallum said that there is "new fallout coming in over this latest jobs report. Many conservatives now speaking out, questioning the numbers in this report."
While Fox explored the supposed questions over the BLS report, on-screen graphics presented some of the report's findings as "Fox Facts." Here are those findings, and the BLS language they are derived from.